Maybe American leadership doesn’t really exist at all. Is it possible that nations don’t follow America out of allegiance to our priorities, but out of their own political calculations? Is it possible that we’re the biggest dog in the room, and that nations calculate whether or not to follow us at their own peril? Is it possible that one way of controlling America’s foreign policy is redefining “universal principles” like liberty until they are unrecognizable, and then convincing American leaders to accept such perversions as the defining goals of American policy?

That was the seduction to which the Obama administration fell prey. Obama and his acolytes are moral relativists to the core, but they preached moral universalism in foreign policy. How, then, did they define those universals? With reference to the European consensus. We were to be tools of a European-defined morality. To buck that morality would be to buck the new international consensus.

The result was entirely predictable: Corpses piled up on the streets of Tehran, Mosul, Raqqa, Beirut, and Jerusalem, even as the Obama administration preached its own moral excellence.